Many people have lost a parent, but very few people have had to deal with the pain of losing a child. It can be a really difficult thing to go through if you're a parent, and sometimes, the pain that fathers deal with during it is left behind. Both mothers and fathers have to work through the heartache, albeit differently, so it's important to take a look at that pain and see what we can do in order to help our way through it.
Father's Day is coming up, and this day can be incredibly painful and heartbreaking for fathers who have lost a child in some way, shape or form. Whether you've dealt with losing a baby to a miscarriage or stillbirth, or you're working through the loss of a teenager in an accident, or an adult child to some sort of disease, days like Father's Day can make it hurt that much more. In this article, we're going to explore a movie that was put out about the pain of losing a child and we're going to talk about how you can work through your grief on Father's Day.
Return to Zero
Last month, the Lifetime network came out with a movie called Return to Zero, which was about a husband and wife who, after becoming pregnant, find out that their child is dead in its mother's womb. This is, of course, devastating to them and they spend much of the movie dealing with the loss and pain that they are dealing with. In a story of affairs, pain, emotional strain, and a number of other ups and downs, this movie brings your heart to a place where it can start to see the effect of this sort of incident on a young couple. As with many of these movies, it ends in reconciliation and coming back together, but not every incident of losing a child ends up this way, sadly. It's good that it has a happy ending, because it gives families the hope that they may need in order to get through this painful experience.
It sounds like it would be a painful movie to watch, and it definitely is, but one thing that it helps you to do is to realize that you are not alone. Much of the post-production and other parts of the movie were paid for by crowdsourcing, and many of the people who put into the Kickstarter were parents of stillborn children. The director of the movie, Sean Hanish, had gone through this in his own life with his wife, and knew the story had to come out so others could be helped. It's an excellent movie and really brings the whole thing into perspective in a realistic, affirming light. If you have struggled with this, or you want to walk with a family that has been through it in a more effective, empathetic, and compassionate manner, then you will want to check out the movie for yourself. They play it on Lifetime regularly, so check your local listings to see when it is on your channel.
How Do I Deal with Fathers Day?
So this brings us to the main question - how does a father who has lost a child cope with Father's Day? What should be done in order to get through this painful, yet important day in your life? Here are some things that can help you work through the pain in a healthy, compassionate, and helpful manner.
Remember, it is still your day. Even if you don't have any other children, you are still a father. Don't forget that. Don't think that you're any less of a dad because you lost your child - even though you may have just been a father for a few brief moments, you are still a father and it is still your day. Father's Day is your day and you deserve to be recognized for it. You are a wonderful man who has taken time out of your life to love someone more fully than you have ever loved anyone, except perhaps your spouse. That alone is worth being recognized, and if you can bring yourself to do it, celebrate if you can. You are still wonderful and you are still loved, and that's important to remember.
Make time for your partner or spouse as well. Even if they are not male, Father's Day can bring heartbreaking feelings to your spouse as well, like Mother's Day may have done for you. Spend some alone time with them, work through some of your feelings, just hold each other or do something quiet together. It's good for you to walk together through these difficult days, and it's important for you to remember each other when the going gets tough. Both of you are hurting, but you will both need the strength of the other to continue to move forward and work through your feelings. Love can help many things and help to strengthen you through many types of pain - don't take it for granted.
Be patient and gentle with yourself - it's okay to hurt. If you cry on Father's Day, it's okay. Actually, it's healthy. Let yourself cry. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to remember. It's not a bad thing, and it's a part of the whole healing process. Grief is not something that we go through once and then forget about it; grieving is something that we may have to go through again and again and again in different ways. That's not to say that we're stuck in a cycle of grief forever, but that moments of grief may come up at times, even years after your child has passed away. So be patient with yourself. Don't do any of this "I have to be a man" business. Allow yourself to cry and feel the pain that you feel - it's normal, it's healthy, and it can help you to become stronger in the end.
If you have other children, focus on them too. Father's Day and Mother's Day is as much for the kids as it is for the parent that is being celebrated. If you have other children, then give them some extra love today. They may be thinking about the loss as well, because Father's Day and Mother's Day have a way of bringing out that grief for everyone that is involved. Do something fun with them, like going to the movies or playing mini-golf. Let them love on you today too, because children are incredibly perceptive, even if they are older children. They will know that something is going on with you today, and they will do everything that they can to help you, even if it's something as simple as making a cute little card or taking you out to dinner. They can really help you to get through your day, too, because your children are precious and, even though they may remind you of the child you have lost, their support will help you remember why you're so special as a dad. Pass the love around!
Recognize those in your life that you see as fathers. Is your father (or your father in law) still living? Chances are, they are struggling with today too - obviously, it doesn't have the same impact that it has on your immediate family, but they still feel the pain that you are going through. Obviously, you want to make sure that you put some focus on them today, but let them walk with you too. They may have some words of wisdom that can help you out, or they can just be fun to be around for the day. On top of that, if you have father figures (from your place of worship, work, or other associations), make sure you give them a shout out today as well - they're just as much dads as you are, even if there's no biological connection. The reason I say this is because it really helps you to work through your pain if you're loving on other people.
Talk about it. Last but not least, don't avoid it. Please, don't avoid the topic all together. Don't forget about Father's Day and act like it doesn't exist at all. If you can and want to, go and put flowers on your child's grave, or just take a visit there. It may hurt, but the more that you talk about it and talk through it, the better it will be for everyone involved and it will help make the next time this comes around that much easier to work through in a healthy way.
Some Last Thoughts
If you are a father that is dealing with the pain of losing a child on Father's Day, we stand with you on this day. I know that it can be hard to lose someone that is so dear to you, and it may be hard to remember that they're gone on such a day. But Father's Day is a day for you as well, and we sincerely hope that you are able to work through your grief. If it's gotten to be too much to bear, please go seek out help from a mental health professional. We've got plenty of resources here and we can make sure that you get someone who can help you walk through the pain. You are not alone.
And if you know a father that has lost a child, make sure that you stand beside them on this day. It can be really hard to know what to do, but just be there. It's a very difficult day for a number of people, and the love and support of friends and family can play a crucial role in helping these grieving fathers to get through what may be the most difficult day of the year. You don't have to do anything out of the ordinary - just be there for them and show that you support them in a healthy manner. Let them know that you're there and let them know that you think they're pretty awesome.
I hope that you have a wonderful Father's Day, no matter what your situation may be.
Farley, K. (n.d.). Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://grievingdads.com/
Kluger, B. (2010, June 14). Father's Day For Dads Who've Lost A Child: This Day Is Still ... Retrieved from http://www.empowher.com/community/share/father-s-day-dads-who-ve-lost-child-day-still-ours
Laurie, G. (2013, June 15). Grieving the Loss of a Child On Father's Day. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-laurie/grieving-the-loss-of-a-child_b_3438087.html
Return to Zero (film). (2014, November 06). Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_to_Zero_%28film%29
Roberts, D. (2012, June 12). Father’s Day After a Child’s Death. Retrieved from http://www.hellogrief.org/fathers-day-after-a-childs-death/